“That’s not Arabic, ya ḥabībi, it’s Libyan!”: Negotiating language boundaries, hierarchies, and policies in Arabic supplementary schools

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Abstract

This paper examines language use and policies in Arabic supplementary schools in the UK to explore how language teachers and learners negotiate and renegotiate sociolinguistic hierarchies and boundaries between language varieties. It draws on long-term ethnographic research in three Arabic supplementary schools in Manchester, with a particular focus on one case study school. Classroom participation and observation, informal interviews, and linguistic landscapes (offline and online) offer insights into language practices and reported practices, revealing discrepancies between language policy and actual language use. The article demonstrates how language beliefs and ideologies held at wider global scales play out locally, shaping imagined hierarchies of language resources in the diverse urban diaspora setting. It shows how in the supplementary school, staff and pupils redefine the status and relevance of “Arabic” versus English. Furthermore, the paper discusses the tensions between fuṣḥā and non-standardized varieties that are at the center of decision-making processes relating to target language and language of instruction in the classroom. This article argues that language policies are to be understood as emerging and operating within wider “interactional regimes,” encompassing declared and practiced policies, actors’ dynamic understandings of their language resources, and local and translocal language ideologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-205
JournalJournal of Arabic Sociolinguistics
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2023

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